Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool: A Review

I bought this new album by the famous English egghead band in the splendid $50 two-disc vinyl version. I hadn’t bought new vinyl in years, but I was over-excited after finally setting up a slick turntable I picked up ages ago and could never previously get to go.

Whatever I did, it sounded all muffled and far away, like it wasn’t connected properly. After a lot of tension and fiddling around, I put in a cupboard and tried to forget my hasty purchase. But I’ve been increasingly keen of late to play my old trove of vinyl, so desperate that I dug the difficult turntable out and finally found out why it wouldn’t go.

Turns out it simply needed to be plugged into the wall. Who knew? It’s such a minimalist model, I hadn’t noticed the power input, tucked secretly away underneath at the back. A bit of electricity made all the difference and it now sounds terrific, possibly better even than a CD. Or maybe I’m just enjoying that presence in the silence you get with needles in plastic grooves. And the songs being divided up across four sides.

Anyway, in my new and heightened sonic circumstances, buying the new Radiohead album was probably inevitable. The content might wobble this way and that from album to album, but Radiohead records do, at the very least, always sound terrific. A Moon Shaped Pool (XL) is no exception, and with its 11 tracks stretched languorously out over four sides it fair leaps out of the speakers.

Not that it’s a leapy sort of album. More ambient than aggro, it sounds a bit like a soundtrack for an imagined epic movie. Guitars are smoothed into new shapes, Thom Yorke’s haunted vocals waft to bold and sometimes unsettling new heights and even the rhythm section refuses to play any predictable lines.

There’s an orchestra involved and a female chorus. A Moon Shaped Pool is very big in a quiet sort of way, an album that takes a little bit of getting into, being not exactly song shaped. Side three’s the most accessible, especially a track called The Numbers, but really it’s a total experience and all the more interesting for being arranged in four separate servings.